Decades ago, the message “Keep It Brief” could be seen on yellow public phone booths all across Germany. That was back when people shared telephone calls rather than “likes” and pictures of cats. Hans Werner Aufrecht also kept it brief in 1967 when he decided on a name for the company he set up with his Daimler-Benz colleague, Erhard Melcher. They called it AMG. Three initials, one name, today a global brand. The initials stood for Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach. Großaspach is a small village near Stuttgart, and was the birthplace of Hans Werner Aufrecht. Just a stone’s throw away stood the company that he and Melcher founded, which was created with the aim of tuning and enhancing Mercedes-Benz cars for motorsport and improving the performance of production vehicles. That was the idea. It turned into a phenomenon.
Today, the company is known as Mercedes-AMG and employs 1,500 people in Affalterbach, just a few kilometres away from its original headquarters. As a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz, it designs breathtaking sports cars and performance models and assembles engines by hand. Collaboration with Mercedes-Benz began in 1990, and the brand has belonged to Daimler AG since 2005.
In 2009, the company began building model series in-house in Affalterbach. The current series is the Mercedes-AMG GT: an extremely sporty car that combines outstanding performance with finely crafted features inspired by the legendary 300 SL sports cars of the 1950s. As a coupe, the GT has been on the market for two years in two performance variations.
In the summer of this 2017 anniversary year, the GT model line will be expanded to include a Roadster and the top-of-the-range AMG GT R Coupe. All models in the series are powered by a V8 engine developed by AMG, and were introduced in spring 2015. The engine is equipped with twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection. The four-litre V8 unit delivers between 550 hp and 577 hp, depending on the model. The GT R reaches 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 318 km/h.
Record on the Nürburgring
The GT R proved that it was much more than just an impressive set of numbers when it was taken for a test drive courtesy of a major sports car magazine last fall on a circuit considered one of the most difficult in the world: the Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop), nicknamed the “Green Hell.” Clocking a time of just 7 minutes and 10.9 seconds, the 577-hp GT R was the fastest road-going sports car ever tested. It was also a race on home turf, so to speak – the Mercedes-AMG top model spent a large part of its development time on the Nürburgring. All GT versions now feature the model’s latest detail: the Panamericana radiator grille. Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts will already be familiar with the chrome-plated, vertical bars set in the diamond-shaped grille, which harks back to the 300 SL racing car, model series W 194, which Mercedes-Benz drove to victory in 1952. Among the spectacular successes achieved by the 300 SL in its first season were the double victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, most notably, the double victory in the long-distance Carrera Panamericana, a 3,371-kilometre race over gruelling Mexican gravel tracks.
AMG co-founder Aufrecht was a teenager in 1952, and Mercedes-Benz racing drivers were his heroes. His dream of working in the motor racing department of Daimler-Benz eventually came true, albeit for only a short while. After finally getting a job on the Mercedes-Benz development team, he discovered in 1964 that the factory was pulling out of competitive racing.
But Aufrecht did not give up, and instead continued to pursue his dream in his garage at home in Großaspach. Together with his colleagues Erhard Melcher and Manfred Schiek, he worked on turning a 300 SE (model series W 112) – back then Germany’s fastest production sedan – into a competitive touring race car. Success soon followed when Schiek won 10 races in the 1965 German Touring Car Championship.
News of the triumph quickly spread, and other racing drivers and private individuals eagerly sought out the engine specialists Aufrecht and Melcher to help them maximize the potential of their vehicles. “We actually just wanted to take part in motorsport,” recalls Aufrecht. “But to help us finance that, we began accepting outside tuning jobs.”
Over the years, these side jobs turned into a steady stream of orders, which helped develop Mercedes-Benz vehicles into high-performance cars.
The big breakthrough toward becoming a global brand happened in March 1968 with the release of the 300 SEL 6.3 – a top-of-the-range model in the W 109 series, the predecessor of the S-Class. Featuring the automatic transmission and V8 engine from the Mercedes-Benz 600, this luxury sedan delivered the performance of a sports car. After nearly two years of painstaking work on a salvaged vehicle (the new company lacked the cash to afford a brand new car), the winning automobile was unveiled. Highly skilled precision engineering – combined with an increase in displacement to 6.8 litres – boosted the engine output from 250 hp to over 400 hp. The heavy sedan thoroughly outclassed its much lighter sports car rivals at the 24 Hours of Spa in July 1971. AMG became a familiar name to racing fans overnight.
1,000 hp on the road?
From then on, the company flourished. Up to the end of the last decade, Mercedes-AMG maintained a tradition that had begun at Mercedes-Benz in the 1920s and which had made the S-Class models and pre-war Silver Arrow unique: increasing boost pressure and performance with a mechanical compressor. Today, a twin turbocharger with even greater efficiency is used. Incorporated in the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S, the new twin-turbocharged four-litre V8 engine turns the sedan into a high-performance athlete: Boasting 612 hp, the E 63 S is the most powerful and fastest-accelerating E-Class of all time (0 to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds).
Fifty years on, AMG is slated to unveil its latest innovation: the Mercedes-AMG hypercar. It will feature a Formula One hybrid drivetrain with over 1,000 hp, approved for road use. It’s clear that, in the future, the company intends to remain faithful to its principle of continually improving driving dynamics.